How to Comfort a Depressed Person

I’m a special education teacher certified in emotional impairment. I have a degree in psychology. I’ve read almost every book on depression self-help. I’ve also battled depression and it’s my own experience with depression that has taught me the most. Like what to say and what not to say to a friend who is suffering with depression.

Giving mindless advice like ‘just cheer up’, ‘pray more’ or ‘have faith’ is like putting a band-aid on a severed limb. It’s inadequate and patronizing. And it’s cold and unfeeling. Scripture says that if you say to your brother, ‘be well’, but do not tend to his needs’ you are ignoring your Christian duty. That’s exactly what depressed people often cannot do is pray more or have faith. For some reason, usually buried in the subconscious, a person in depression has lost hope. Don’t’ tell the depressed person to ‘have faith’ or ‘pray more’; pray for him and bolster his faith by your love and compassion.

Likewise quoting scripture or lovely platitudes is usually a slap in the face to the depressed person. I remember on the way to a therapist appointment when I was in the throes of a depressive episode, passing a church sign that says ‘God wants you to be happy’. I wanted to run the sign down in my car. Happiness, or joy was exactly what was eluding me. To me, that sign might as well have said, ‘God expects you to be happy. God demands that you be happy. How that’s going to happen is your problem. But you’d better do it if you want to please God. If you’re not happy, you’re a miserable failure’.

Scripture tells us to ‘weep with those who weep’ and ‘comfort those who mourn’. It doesn’t tell us to paste a Perma-grin on our face and try to ‘get someone to smile’. That kind of comfort is cold and shallow. It’s all about the person doing the cheering, not the depressed person. When little Miss Sunshine has succeeded in ‘getting her to smile’ she can go on her merry way, patting herself smugly on the back for ‘cheering her up’. Meanwhile leaving the depressed person feeling more miserable.

Depression, sadness, gloom and despair of feelings most everyone will experience at some point in their life, if they have healthy, developed emotions. Don’t patronize or minimize another’s pain. ‘Bear one another’s burdens’. Help them shoulder the load of pain. You’ll provide a lot more care and comfort with a hug and a shoulder to lean you will trying to ‘pull them out of it’. The mental toughness and treatment of depression is great with the right method. The treatment should be great to meet with the specifications and requirements. The pain  due to the mental problems is reduced with the right method.